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Experience Europe Without Leaving North America

  • Sara Simmons

    Foreign Exchange

    Where to go on your next getaway? The sky's the limit-but that doesn't mean you have to fly to get there. Even with high gas prices, a 2- to 3-hour road trip still costs less than airline tickets, especially for a family. Plan your drive using AAA's Fuel Cost Calculator: Select your starting point, your destination and the make and model of your car-and find out how much a weekend away will run you (fuelcostcalculator.com).

  • Sharon Vanderboon

    Go Dutch: Holland, Michigan

    This town is known for its world-famous Tulip Time festival in May, which draws more than 500,000 people to see millions of tulips in bloom. But Holland, nestled on the banks of Lake Michigan, boasts quaint Dutch charm and outdoor fun any time of year.


    Start here: Hop on the trolley and ride through the cobblestone streets and brick alleyways of the historic district, stopping along the way at your choice of more than 120 shops and galleries. Visit Nelis' Dutch Village, where you can watch Klompen dancers perform Dutch folk dances and take a ride on a zweefmolen (swing ride). On a guided excursion to Windmill Island you'll learn about Dutch culture, watch arts and crafts demos and climb a 240-year-old windmill.


    Ethnic flavor: Alpenrose restaurant offers specialties from the Alps region, like jaeger schnitzel (beef, pork or veal cutlet) and Swiss steak. Stop at the Hungry Dutchman Cafe at Dutch Village for bankets (almond-filled pastry logs), pea soup or pigs in a blanket (stuffed cabbage rolls).


    More to explore: Pedal the bike path along Lakeshore Drive, which connects Holland State Park and Grand Haven, hopping off at several of the beachfront parks you encounter. Land a trophy catch on a Lake Michigan fishing charter or explore the lake on a rented wave- runner or power boat.


    Stay here: Holiday Inn Express (866-315-6182; suburbaninns.com) has a large indoor pool, outdoor spa, sports court and oversize rooms, starting at $120 a night. Country Inn By Carlson is a hit with families, thanks to its free continental breakfast, indoor pool, reasonable rates and location next to Nelis' Dutch Village (888-201-1746; countryinns.com/hollandmi). Rooms start at $89.


    For more information Holland Convention and Visitors Bureau (800-506-1299; holland.org)

  • Amish Country: Lancaster, Pennsylvania

    Picturesque farms dot the countryside and horse and buggies clip-clop along back roads in Lancaster County, home of America's oldest Amish settlement.


    Start here: Tour the Amish Farm and House and watch demonstrations of quilting and blacksmithing. The multimedia presentation at the Amish Experience explores the tough choices faced by Amish teenagers. Stop at a local shop to sample the baked goods.


    Ethnic flavor: Pick from traditional Lancaster County recipes like ham loaf, brown butter noodles, fresh veggies and chow chow at the Bird-in-the-Hand Family Restaurant and Smorgasbord.


    More to explore: The back roads are perfect for pedaling; rent bikes and ask for a map of suggested routes. Head to nearby Gifford Pinchot State Park to paddle the 340-acre lake or hike shoreline trails.


    Stay here: Willow Valley Resort (800-444-1714; willowvalley.com) has two pools and suites, starting at $119. Or milk cows at Verdant View Farm B&B (888-321-8119; verdantview.com). Rooms from $73.


    For more information Pennsylvania Dutch Convention and Visitors Bureau (800-PA-DUTCH; padutchcountry.com)

  • German Town: Fredericksburg, Texas

    Fredericksburg's Main Street area is listed in the National Register of Historic Places for its mid-19th-century German-style buildings and church steeples. The neighborhood also features some of the town's legendary "Sunday houses," where pioneers and farmers stayed overnight when they came into town to sell produce and attend church. Visit in the fall for Oktoberfest-a celebration of all things German.


    Start here: Visit Pioneer Museum to learn about the lives of early German settlers, then head to Sauer-Beckman Farm, where costumed interpreters perform farm chores, such as milking cows, plowing fields, churning butter and herding cattle.


    Ethnic flavor: Try Opa's sausage and bratwurst, served with hot German potato salad, red cabbage, potato pancakes and sauerkraut at Auslander Biergarten and Restaurant. Or stop by the Rather Sweet Bakery and Cafe in historic downtown for shortbread and kolaches (pastries stuffed with fruit or cheese).


    More to explore: Hike trails and climb the 425-foot granite dome at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, then visit Old Tunnel Wildlife Management Area, home to some 3 million Brazilian free-tailed bats and 3,000 cave myotises (May through October). At Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park take a ranger-guided tour of the President's boyhood home, check out the hefty Hereford cows on the ranch and walk the mile-long circular trail to the Johnson Settlement, where you'll learn about old-time cattle drives and visit the log home of LBJ's grandparents.


    Stay here: Quiet Hill Ranch Bed and Breakfast (830-669-2253; quiethillranch.com). A remote peaceful setting 25 minutes outside of town. Cabins offer a lovely view of the valley and are perfect for star gazing at $160 per night. A block from downtown Main Street, the Fredericksburg Inn and Suites (800-446-0202; fredericksburg-inn.com) has two pools, free parking, an outdoor barbecue area and a hot tub. Rooms start at $99.


    For more information Fredericksburg Convention & Visitor Bureau (888-997-3600; fredericksburg-texas.com)

  • French Flair: Montreal, Quebec

    While you'll need a passport to visit this bustling, cosmopolitan hub, Montreal, the second-largest French-speaking city in the world, is a lot easier-and cheaper-to get to than Paris. (It's only a short plane ride from most places in the U.S.) Walk the streets, lined with French pastry shops and cafes, and you're more likely to hear si'l vous plait and merci than "please" and "thank you." In fact, street signs are required to be in French (but many are multilingual).


    Start here: Montreal's famous Parisian-style Old Town is crowded with cultural landmarks, museums, boutiques, sidewalk cafes and restaurants. Watch street performers in lively Place Jacques-Cartier square and don't miss the stunning Notre-Dame Basilica. Montreal loves a party and hosts more than 40 festivals annually; June's Festival International de Jazz offers more than 370 free shows.


    Ethnic flavor: Visit the colorful Marche Atwater farmers' market, where more than 50 vendors sell delicacies like French bread, cheese, sausages and wine. Try the award-winning viande fume (smoked meat) at Schwartz's Deli, a Montreal legend that has been around since 1928.


    More to explore: Kids can walk through four different ecosystems (rain forest, polar, marine and forest) at the Biodome, where penguins, parrots and other creatures abound. Get close to creepy-crawlies and beautiful bugs at the Montreal Insectarium, home to more than 160,000 mounted specimens.


    Stay here: The stylish all-suite Le Saint-Sulpice (877-785-7423; www.lesaintsulpice.com/) has a friendly staff and plush amenities in an Old Montreal location; rooms with kitchenettes start at $285. Le Square Phillips (866-393-1193; squarephillips.com), with its extra-large studios and suites, is located downtown. Deluxe studios with kitchens start at $166.


    For more information Greater Montreal Convention and Tourism Bureau (514-844-3264; tourisme-montreal.org)


    Originally published in the September 2008 issue of Family Circle magazine.


    This piece was accurate at publication time, but all prices, offerings and availabilities are subject to change. Please contact each hotel and attraction for up-to-date rates and information before taking your trip.

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